There will be a unique feeling of excitement and rejoice spread around Anfield should new, showpiece £37.5million January signing Luis Diaz take to the field for the very first time in Liverpool red this afternoon – but just under three years ago, back in March 2019, the Colombian international attacking marvel was adamant he was heading to Wales to join his side’s FA Cup fourth-round opponents Cardiff following an alleged agreement.
The newly-promoted Bluebirds, who were locked in a relegation dog-fight at the foot of the Premier League under former manager Neil Warnock, had sent scouts to South America to watch Diaz in action for his side Junior Barranquilla in the Copa Libertadores against Palmeiras in a 2-0 defeat.
With a reported fee in the region of £7million being mooted in the press, Diaz’s agent Carlos Van Strahalen moved to confirm interest from an unnamed Premier League club – understood to be Cardiff.
Yet the tricky, imaginative winger – who was quickly emerging as one of the brightest young prospects in Colombian football – was prepared to go one step further, revealing there was an agreement in place between the two clubs over a ‘pre-contract’.
“Yes, there is already a pre-agreement but I still have not said anything to them, nothing to the leaders that I agree with and that I’m going to go,” Diaz told Caracol Radio.
“Let’s say there is an agreement between clubs, but I’m still holding back.
“I told them that I am determined to go but I am calm and I want to do things well. If the possibility is given, it would be good.”
Cardiff were remaining tight-lipped on their hopes of securing a transfer, knowing any deal would ultimately hinge on securing their top-flight status for the 2019/20 season – something the Bluebirds would later fail to achieve on the final day of the season, despite a 2-0 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Diaz was keen to elaborate on his prospects of an unlikely move to South Wales, insisting his club Junior Barranquilla had secretly shaken hands with Cardiff behind the scenes over the framework of a deal.
“No, I have not yet submitted any medical exams,” he continued.
“Junior had a talk, which is a preliminary agreement and nothing has been confirmed, the proposal was put in place and I have not yet travelled there.”
Confirmation of Cardiff’s relegation to the Championship prompted Diaz and his representatives to explore a move elsewhere and after talks with both Porto and Zenit St Petersburg, the attacker headed for the Estadio do Dragao following consultation with international team-mates Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez as well as Colombia boss Carlos Queiroz.
Porto would pay Barranquilla a mere £5.8m fee to secure 80 per cent of Diaz’s economic rights in the summer of 2019 and that figure has since proved a snip with the player’s lucrative Liverpool transfer potentially set to earn the Portuguese giants up to £50m including add-ons.
Following the completion of Diaz’s medical in Argentina on Saturday before Colombia’s 1-0 World Cup qualification defeat at the Estadio Mario Alberto Kempes in Cordoba, the 25-year-old returned to Europe via Bogota as he prepared to embark on his new chapter on Merseyside.
However, before Diaz could meet up with his new team-mates, Jurgen Klopp and his coaching staff at Kirkby, he travelled to Paris to visit the UK’s Visa Application Centre to secure a work permit with his girlfriend Gera Ponce and daughter Rome.
The visa would declare Diaz available for Sunday’s lunchtime meeting with Cardiff, who can now be forgiven for wondering what might have been following the collapse of their 2019 transfer deal.
‘Lucho’ finally touched down at Liverpool John Lennon Airport via private jet on Friday before receiving his first Klopp bear hug and a personal tour of his manager’s office and the training ground.
He was then out to grace the Kirkby turf for the very first time that very afternoon before joining his new team-mates on the pitch on Saturday as he bids to provide the Bluebirds with a timely reminder of the star quality that slipped through their fingers.